Did an email interview with Nabaneeta Dev Sen on winning the Big Little Book Awards 2017 for her contribution to Bengali Children’s Literature, for Sakal Times, where the veteran author brilliantly sumps up the century-old history of children’s writing in Bengali in a nutshell.
"Bengali children’s literature started with Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in the 19th century with tiny stories for children in his first Bengali wordbook for children, Varna Parichaya. Bangla children’s literature started with strong roots in Bengal. Upendrakishore Ray wrote Bangla children’s fables that we grew up on and my granddaughter also knows, although she does not read Bangla. Sayajit Ray, Upendrakishore’s grandson made his first classic children’s film Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne based on his grandfather’s short story.
"Our children’s literature developed on its own with local fables, fairy tales, funny stories, and ghost tales, etc from the villages. And with endless tales from Sanskrit classics, Bengali children grew up on our own literary imagination for a long time, but soon the adventure stories and detective stories began to appear, whose basic idea was Western, but the story materials hundred per cent Bangla. Our generation knew Western stories along with the Bangla ones not only because there were many English medium schools in the cities, but also because the standard of teaching English was high in the Bengali medium schools as well.
"The scene has totally changed today and there is a strong line of cultural demarcation between the English medium students and the Bengali medium students. Bangla medium students still read a great deal of Bangla children’s literature, but unlike our times, the English medium schools today do not stress on the mother tongue at all. Our grandchildren refuse to read books in their mother tongue. This is true of all the regional languages of India. Our new generations are slowly losing touch with our past, with our roots, with our inner selves. What we urgently need is to translate our own regional language children’s literature into powerful modern English to allow them to know their cultural roots."
Read the full interview here.